God’s been calling me to share my testimony, which is something I tend to avoid. I honestly have never sat down and written out my full testimony. When I’ve been required to share it, I usually highlight one moment where God worked in my life, or where I surrendered something to Him, but I’ve never honestly and vulnerably written or shared my whole story. So, this is a bit scary for me and not at all in my comfort zone.
I grew up in the church and did all the right things: praying before each meal, going to church, memorizing Bible verses, etc. I even prayed the sinner’s prayer at least 25 times, but there was no faith involved. Outside of mealtime, church events, and crises, God never crossed my mind.
At age 12, sometime in late September or early October, I prayed the sinner’s prayer, again. At this point in time, I believed God and the Bible, and I believed Jesus is the Savior of the world, but I didn’t believe Jesus had died for me. I didn’t think I was good enough to be saved but I though the rest of the world was… I now realize that I am not that special to be the only human who doesn’t deserve grace. I was sort of following God for the first time, but only sometimes, and it lasted maybe 6 months before I was back to going through the motions.
At age 16, I started to really get sick. (You can read my full health journey here.) Within a month, I was reacting to nearly everything I ate, had lost several pounds (with no changes in diet or appetite and no intentions to lose weight), slept sometimes 10-12 hours in a night yet woke up every day exhausted, had brain fog, and felt weak overall. My tools for stress relief became stressful. Reading became challenging because of the brain fog, swimming became more physically exhausting than previously, and playing the piano became difficult as my hands were weak and I struggled following the sheet music.
Being forced to find new (healthy) avenues for stress relief isn’t easy, and the stress of being sick impacted my mental health. At that point in my life, the Christian faith was only a cultural thing for me, and not something that I could fall back on for strength. I got really angry at God. I believed that since He wasn’t healing me, He didn’t care about me or my story. I also was angry at myself for not being deserving of His love and care. I kept going through the motions, because I didn’t want to have to tell the Christians in my life that I wasn’t one myself. I wasn’t in church to worship God, I wasn’t praying because I wanted to, and I was reading my Bible only to meet requirements for AWANA, a Christian program for children age 3 to grade 12.
The morning of my high school graduation, my maternal grandma and I watched a preacher she likes on TV, and the TV Bible study talked about genuine faith. It really got me thinking and asking questions. I started reading my Bible because I wanted to, but then about a week or two later my paternal grandma passed away, and that really took an emotional toll on me. I was pretty numb for a bit; I didn’t really know what to think or feel.
During freshman year, I was struggling with a lot of emotions that I didn’t know how to process from the unexpected passing of my grandmother, the absence of a healing miracle, and several things I had unsuccessfully tried to suppress. My mental health really started to fall apart in the spring semester, and I reached a breaking point right before my sophomore year of college. On October 15, 2016, at an InterVarsity conference that I almost didn’t go to, I surrendered my life to Christ and have been following Him since then.
Just over two years later, my faith has grown significantly. My mental health has been stable for about a year. I still have rough days, but now I have found joy and strength in the God who created the universe and also loves me. Next week, I will continue sharing how God has been working in my life over the past few months.